After testing new safety dispatching technology with students and employees last year, Seattle University ordered a service upgrade from React Mobile for the 2016-17 school year.
The pilot placed React Mobile panic buttons (Sidekicks) in the hands of students and staff, which could be paired with a mobile application via bluetooth. Pushing the button would alert family and friends of an incident on or off campus.
“We didn’t have really any incidents where people actually had to use the button, but we had a few people try it,” said Craig Birklid, interim director of public safety at Seattle U. “The nice thing about what we have now is we have a little bit more tools for how to contact people.”
The bluetooth panic button that pairs with the React Mobile app was introduced during a Kickstarter campaign in 2014. Shortly after its commercial launch, React Mobile began a phase one pilot with Seattle U, said founder Robb Monkman.
One request Seattle U had during the pilot was the ability to receive Sidekick and mobile alerts at its 24-hour dispatch center, Monkman said, which led to the creation of an enterprise dispatch center software, the second phase of technology to come out of React Mobile.
Birklid said campus security can now track through its dispatch center who called for assistance, when, where and how the issue was resolved, and can generate corresponding reports. Students and faculty also can update their profiles with emergency contact information, which campus security can more quickly access when family needs to be reached about an incident.
“It’s a pretty cool technology,” Birklid said, “and (React Mobile has) done a pretty good job of getting it integrated, and they took some of our suggestions.”
He said he’s also happy the mobile app has a Follow Me feature, where students or faculty can alert family and friends when they plan to be out, their destination point and time of arrival. Those following a user can see if they arrive at their destination and receive notifications from the user, Birklid said, as well as a reminder to check on a user if they don’t update their status.
Monkman said the inspiration for his company came from an armed robbery experience he had as a college undergraduate off campus, where two gunmen broke into an apartment and held him at gunpoint.
“They ended up taking my roommate hostage,” he said.
When React Mobile started, Monkman said the idea was just to have a widespread SOS alert. After people started downloading the app, he said the company realized people would use it more if it could be used for everyday solutions, such as being tracked to destinations and pinpointed when something bad happens and they end up somewhere else.
An example Monkman uses is someone going for a jog, who wants to let a loved one know where they’re going and when they expect to finish. While most people associate the app with criminal activity, Monkman said a lot of times it can be an accident or medical emergency; if a person were to fall off a running trail, for example.
Seattle U provided information about the React Mobile app, Sidekick and other services during summer orientations in July.
“We had some folks that took advantage of that, so we could have those (Sidekicks) ready for them, so there wasn’t any delay,” Birklid said.
The Sidekick panic button costs $30 and has a battery life of about a year, while the mobile app is free to download. Seattle U has purchased a number of devices branded for the school and then others in various colors. Birklid said further education of students and faculty about the technology will be ongoing.
Freshman return to campus on Saturday, Sept. 17.